Jul 172020

Eney Jones performs the dancer pose in the woods near her Colorado home. Photo by Lily Donge.

Most Masters swimmers prefer water training over land-based activity. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 crisis required many swimmers to hang up their swimsuits and find new training alternatives. Research shows that land-based activities can help maintain bone density and muscle mass and that cross-training can reduce the potential for injuries. Masters swimmers Mark Frost, Tom Boyd, Andrea Woodburn, Eney Jones, Hilary Cohen, and Denise Letendre share how they stayed fit during the lockdown and why they continued some of their land-based activities once pools opened again.

Oregon Masters swimmer Mark Frost, 53, has acquired four Masters Top 10 achievements and one Masters All-American berth in a 10K open water race. He joined the Oregon Masters Swim community several years ago and began training up to six days a week at the Hood River Aquatic Center.

Mark was experiencing shoulder pain when pools in his area closed in March. “Before COVID, I was considering transitioning to three, instead of five, days in the pool, using the other two days to do dryland shoulder work.”

He started biking around a 10-mile bike loop in his neighborhood dubbed the “Hamster” loop. At first, he cycled the route on alternate days and then started doing it daily or even twice a day. He’s now done this loop 43 straight days in the afternoons—rather than the early AMs when he once swam.

During the spring, he ventured out on an open water wetsuit swim in Hood River with two other teammates in chilly 55- degree water.  “Water flow is really strong this time of year.” Most of the open water swimmers wait until it slows—and the water hits at least 60, he said.

“I’m going to look for a balance coming out of this [COVID-19 crisis].” Mark plans to continue cycling after pools open “to improve my legs so I can start running again” and to “keep the weight off.”  After completing an Ironman Triathlon in Cozumel in 2013, he has experienced steady weight gain.

He’ll stick with his recently established afternoon training schedule, which has enabled him to communicate with European clients early mornings when he used to swim. Biking, running and open water—rather than pool—training will make that possible. He looks ahead to winning another open water championship and one day swimming the English Channel.

64-year-old Tom Boyd—coached by John Grzeszczak—swims with the Hammerhead Aquatics Masters team in Fort Lauderdale and has acquired 67 Masters Top 10 and one All-American award. A former college swimmer, Tom joined Masters in 1984 and has been consistently swimming ever since. After being diagnosed with a heart condition ten years ago, he has directed his focus on fitness rather than competition.

Pre-COVID-19, he did chest and shoulder work on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and back, biceps and legs on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Thirty-five years of coaching experience gave him the know-how to design effective strength training workouts. His goal want wasn’t to bulk up—just to get stronger—and maintain a healthy bone density, which can’t be achieved through water training. He cycled through three sets of 6, 10 or 20 reps, doing fewer reps on days higher weights were selected. Stretches were added during rest intervals. In particular, he emphasized stretches for tight hips and hamstrings. This weight routine was disrupted when his condo complex gym closed in March.

Tom’s lockdown strength workout includes pushups (3×20), burpees (2×10), tricep dips (3×20), planks (2×1:15), mountain climbers (3×20), calf raises (2×30), jumping jacks (1×40) and a two-minute wall sit.  “I also do several sets of light-weight repeats of rotator cuff exercises.  Because I only have five-pound weights, I also do three sets of 100 curls as fast as I can to get some lactic acid.” He also does a workout “based on a set that coach John sent out that had a set for each letter of the alphabet and you spell out your full name, including middle name, for your dry land sets. It was fun, and I stuck with it (Table 1).”

Tom typically swam as much as 4000 meters four days a week and ran on three of the off days. Now he’s running four to eight miles before sunrise when he’s less likely to encounter others.

Tom will resume his normal weight routine and continue running three days a week once the lockdown ends and he can return to the pool.  “Once I can get in the water, I will do a lot of dolphin kicking on my back for my core. I will probably discontinue the drylands but will keep up with the planks.  I want to do the weights to help with bone density and muscle mass.” Strength training also helps with weight control, he said.  “I will always continue to do the rotator cuff exercises as I have chronic issues with my shoulders if I don’t.”

Andrea Woodburn, a recently retired family therapist, also swims for Hammerhead Aquatics in Ft. Lauderdale. She has acquired 10 Masters Top 10 achievements and has been a Masters swimmer for more than 25 years, serving in various capacities with her LMSC in more recent years.

When pools closed on March 15th, Andrea turned to yoga. She’s a 200-RYT Yoga Alliance certified instructor and enjoys a regular Ashtanga practice. She says yoga is similar to swimming in that “there’s rhythm and flow.” People who take her classes often take it for flexibility, mobility, and better emotional balance. “Who doesn’t like to feel at peace. People are really having this sense of being out of control. In Yoga, you gain insight on your own control over your own body. It’s very powerful.”

Andrea and her husband also practice tether swimming in their backyard pool, simulating 100-yard intervals by stroke count. She’s also been doing the A-Z strength and general conditioning work that teammate Tom Boyd is doing.

The dryland workouts have added a new component to her training.  “Sweat, heart-rate up, high energy, listening to music, I can feel muscles tightening—it’s overall good conditioning.” For many of those reasons, she plans to continue that mode of training post-lockdown.

Andrea believes in having options available. People not open to training outside the water “have no outlet,” she said. “I think it’s important to be well-rounded.” Even if pools don’t close again due to the pandemic, a person might have to stop pool training during an ear infection or other situation. Andrea also cites bone health as one more reason to persist with some kind of land-based training.

 

Table 1: A-Z or Spell Your Name Workout
A 10 Burpees
B 1-minute plank
C 20 pushups
D 40 jumping jacks
E 15 squats
F 3-minute wall sit
G 15 crunches
H 30 calf raises
I 20 body squats
J 20 mountain climbers
K 15 tricep dips
L  1-minute plank
M 20 lunges
N 30-second plank
O 20 pushups
P 25 arm circles
Q 15 side lunges
R 10 burpees
S 20 mountain climbers
T 20 jump squats
U 1-minute high knees
V 40 jumping
W 15 tricep dips
X 15 crunches
Y 3-minute wall sit
Z 30 calf raises

 

Andrea anticipates a return to open water racing. Last year, she swam the Hellespont, a swim that crosses a channel from Europe to Asia. More than 800 swimmers competed, and Andrea won her age group. “It was a really cool race.”

Eney Jones splits her time living in Boulder and Crescent Butte, Colorado. She was an NCAA gold medalist, has 104 Masters Top ten achievements, 7 Masters All American (pool) achievements, and 3 All American open water achievements. She was also a professional triathlete for nearly a decade.

The coronavirus lockdowns scrambled all of her aquatic plans. Eney had been slated to race in USMS Spring Nationals, a meet her dad was hosting, and to attend clinics in Canada and Australia. The sudden end to those plans and her water training felt surreal. “I went from a busy schedule to nothing.”

Embarking on land-based training, she chose to move away from goal-driven training. “I am doing things because I enjoy them, not stressing or training with the ‘end’ or ‘race’ in mind, but more with the ‘right now’ in mind. I used to think that more was more. More training, more activities, more racing. But now I am doing things for less time more often.”

She often ran nine miles while training for triathlons, for example. At first, it felt like a waste for her to try three instead. She gradually let go of that belief and started regularly running short distances with a friend. “I’m making it more about fun and conversation.” Often, Eney doesn’t even wear a watch.

In addition to running, she’s mountain and road biking and doing “kitchen ballet” (a combination of dumbbell exercises, yoga, and ballet), core work (including wheels – https://swimswam.com/finding-the-calm-in-the-storm/) and yoga—outside on the deck with her husband.

Instead of getting up at 4:30 to swim like she did when pools were open, “I sleep in and I’m eating and cooking better.” Sleeping past the wee hours has its benefits. Instead of the afternoon doldrums, “I have energy to go through the day,” she said. She has enjoyed this shift of mindset and activities she’s adopted during this lockdown. “It’s made me open my mind to the fact that other things could feed my soul.”

She admits the water’s never far from her mind. Her thirst for the water drove her to dive into ice-cold creek swimming. “You get in and it’s so cold, you think I can’t do this.” Then, she said, you go numb and don’t care anymore and “afterward, you feel great.”

After lockdown ends, morning “connection” walks with her husband and road and mountain biking will all continue along with the 30-minute “kitchen ballet” routine. “Yes, I will compete but not as much. Yes, I will swim but not as much. I have found that other activities are helping me keep strong and more focused on what really matters.”

32-year-old Denise Letendre “swam collegiately at Rutgers University and then started Masters in 2012.  I am a five-time individual All-American and 93-time Masters Top 10 swimmer.  “Primarily an IMer in the pool,” she also regularly competes in open water competitions.

“About two weeks after pools closed, I purchased a spin bike. My bike cost about 350 dollars and was easy to assemble. I started using the Peloton app to do spin workouts.  I have also incorporated strength workouts, dance cardio, stretching, and yoga into my routine.  The app offers classes in all those areas.  I like the variety.  I particularly like the spin classes because they mimic tough pool workouts.  Sprints and resistance challenges force me to push myself like I would in the pool.  I find myself drawing upon the same “grit” and perseverance I use at the end of a tough swim race.  Sometimes I even convert how much time we have left to a swim race.  Say we have 30 more seconds at a certain challenging speed.  I will tell myself that it’s the last 50 of a 400 IM and push myself like I would at the end of a race.  I get the same ‘high’ at the end of a spin class that I used to get when pushing myself in the pool.  I also feel like the cycling has kept my cardiovascular fitness at a good level.

“After pools reopen, I still plan to use the bike on days I don’t swim. It helps my leg strength and cardiovascular capacity.  I also plan to continue strength and yoga classes.  I had done yoga before quarantine, but during this time, I realized how much my body needs it. I have tight shoulders that I enjoy stretching in downward-facing dog.  I also feel like my balance is improving.  I usually do yoga before bed and it helps me clear my head of the busyness and anxiety of the day.”

Hilary Cohen, 57, lives in Atlanta, Georgia. After pool closures, she continued swimming in nearby lakes on weekends. That’s when “I normally do high volume swims back to back,” she said.

Despite all the turmoil, this seasoned distance open water swimmer has set her sights on competing again in Trifloyd 8, an eight-mile open water event from Clearwater to Tampa in November.  The COVID-19 crisis led her to ask herself, “What can I do to train hard now that I have this limitation?”

Her basement has been converted into a gym with “every piece of equipment.” A friend who owns a Cross Fit gym gave her ideas on implementing an effective core and strengthening program –on land and in an above ground pool—to improve her swimming performance. On land, she emphasizes work for core, shoulders, and back, performing a variety of exercises including planks, landmine lunges (with barbell), standing presses, rotator cuff work, kettlebell swings, waist twists (with barbell), and ball shots. She also suspends herself from gymnastic rings for pullups and core work. “There’s a host of core exercises I’ve added.” She has a large tire in her yard for flipping. This land-based regimen isn’t something she’ll discard even after pools open. “I’ve pulled a muscle in my back. I’ve had injuries.” She believes the dryland work is protective against these problems.

She encourages people locked out of gyms who don’t have weights at home to get creative. She suggests filling PVC pipe with sand and cementing the ends, filling milk jugs with water, or heaving kitty litter bags.

Hilary has one above ground pool in place and is in the process of setting up a second. When working remotely, she takes breaks to train in water just steps away from her computer. “It’s convenient and invigorating.” Recently, she’s been doing tethered sculling, kicking, fist swimming, breaststroke, and core work, including two and three-point plans. She hopes to be able to do full freestyle in her new, deeper pool.

With water nearby and a repertoire of workouts available, “I feel like I’m better able to equip with day to day stress. I can think outside the box and think ‘what else can I use?’ It’s good to experiment.”

 

 

May 092020

At the beginning of May, I launched a page on Vimeo – Sea and Sun Yoga –  that offers users the opportunity to stream or purchase videos of my yoga and fitness classes filmed in Tucson, Arizona and San Carlos, Mexico. Classes can be streamed for 2.99 each or purchased for 5.99. A $20 monthly membership allows you to stream as many videos as you like.

Some class formats available include Gentle Yoga, Flow Yoga, Resistance Band Blast, Yoga Pilates Fusion, Yoga Nidra, TRX training, Stability Ball strengthening, Stretching, and more! No two classes are the same. I will continue to add videos each week to add dimension to the program. I hope you enjoy these classes, which you can do at your convenience in your own home – where many of us are spending a lot of time now anyway!

Apr 302020

During this ongoing health crisis, I will continue to offer Zoom Yoga classes. They are free, with donations being accepted after April 10. All classes are Pacific time. I am offering a Gentle Yoga on Mondays at 9 AMYoga Nidra at 4 PM on Tuesdays (40 minutes), Flow Practice Wednesdays at 9 AM, Friday, Resistance Band Blast at 9AM, and Yoga/Pilates Fusion Saturday at 10 AM.  If you would like to join any of these classes, please set up an account on Zoom (if you haven’t already) and email me at susan@corazondeloro.com and I’ll send you an invitation. May you be calm, may you be well, may you experience harmony in your life today. Namaste.

Classes are $5 each or $40 per month for unlimited classes.


Class Type


 

I have also set up an on-demand site on Vimeo if you would like to stream videos you can do on your own schedule.

Apr 272020

We left our residence in San Carlos, Mexico to return to Tucson because of the Covid-19 crisis. In Mexico, I swam daily in the Sea of Cortez for an hour or more. Very little could deter me from the water. I even swam (with a wetsuit) on winter days the water dipped down into the 50s. And I swam on days when swells were large or there was a lot of chop. Not even stingray mating season could keep me out. On days when a large and soon familiar pod of bottlenose dolphins would swim by – occasionally pausing to play or chat – I felt as if I belonged out there in the sea and it was the one place on Earth I truly fit in. I felt at peace, calm, whole, feeling the gently rush of the water all around me and inhaling the salty air deep into my lungs.

All at once, I was in Tucson, not only without the sea but with no open pools. My mood quickly plummeted. I rushed out to run in hopes that I could acquire that calm I obtained from swimming post-workout. No such luck. By the end of the week, I felt uncomfortable sensations in literally every vertebra. My hips weren’t too happy either. For two nights, sleep eluded me. My body was rebelling against these new workouts.

I contacted an expert running coach, Dr. Jason Karp, once I had somewhat of a grip. It took about two weeks before I felt ready. Days before I called him, I broke out in hives worrying I might burst into tears during the call, which I was doing frequently when I awakened each morning realizing it would be another swimmingless day. Even when I did call, I had a hard time not sounding pathetic. I felt pathetic. In the water, I felt strong, powerful, like I was connected to the sea and everything that lived in it. On land, I felt clumsy, weak, like my body was old and falling apart. Jason suggested that I alternate days with walking and running. And on the days I ran, he suggested doing intervals. Then I might get more of a rush of good energy instead of that I feel like I’m going to collapse feeling, which was more descriptive of my experience so far. About this time, my husband ordered a TRX because he was frustrated with the interruption of his weight workouts.  So the next week, I planned to embark on Jason’s suggestion to alternate run/walk days with walk days and made the choice on my own that I would do TRX two to three times a week as well. This would hopefully provide the high and the optimal mental function I experienced after a swim. To restore some sense of calm, which I had also felt regularly after sea swims, I was teaching and practicing yoga and a type of yogic sleep called Yoga Nidra.

The first week went okay. The second one way better. I started to actually feel powerful while running. By resting before I started again, I could do intervals that felt respectably fast. My husband one morning remarked that I was getting faster. And I was loving the TRX workouts. I could do motions that felt like swimming. And my arms started to get more definition. My new plan was working. My body was adapting to new ways of exercising. My joints no longer hurt. I was feeling almost like myself again, despite the abrupt shift in training.

This is not to say I didn’t miss swimming. I still dream of swimming in the ocean. Of looking face-to-face at a dolphin while he makes chattering sounds and blows a bubble ring for me. I started buying books written by swimmers. Lynne Cox wrote two beautiful books, Swimming in Antarctica and Grayson. She’s much more adventurous than me, but her writing still speaks to me on many levels. Even when I can’t swim, I can vicariously through reading these books.

Last week I broke down and drove two hours southeast of here to Parker Canyon Lake. I stayed away from everyone. I had my husband nearby on the paddleboard for safety. The water experience was restorative, refreshing. But I knew then it was no longer the only way for me to get a decent workout or to find emotional balance. Running, walking, TRX training, and my yoga practices will carry me through until I am able to immerse myself completely in my water world again.

 

 

Apr 032020

If you miss swimming or being by the sea or ocean, allow yourself to take a time out and enjoy this very relaxing 20 minute Yoga Nidra, which will allow you to experience your happy place and emerge from the experience feeling replenished and refreshed.

Apr 032020

During this health crisis, when many are struggling to stay calm and find a new way to continue or begin exercise and wellness programs, I am offering Zoom Yoga classes. They are free, with donations being accepted after April 10. All classes are Pacific time. I am offering a Gentle Yoga on Mondays at 9 AMYoga Nidra at 4 PM on Tuesdays (40 minutes), Flow Practice Wednesdays at 9 AM, and Friday, Resistance Band Blast (April 10) at 9AM.  If you would like to join any of these classes, please set up an account on Zoom (if you haven’t already) and email me at susan@corazondeloro.com and I’ll send you an invitation. May you be calm, may you be well, may you experience harmony in your life today. Namaste.

If you would like to make a donation to support Susan’s ongoing teaching efforts, please click the link below.




Jan 142020

An intention or Sankalpa (resolve) is a positive statement, usually beginning with “I am,” “I feel,” or “My true nature is.” This affirmation, resolve, or heartfelt desire should be short, in the present tense, positive, and feel attainable.

Below are a few examples…

I am calm
I am content
I am grateful
I am enough
I am at peace
I am innately kind and compassionate
I am present in the moment
I am at one with humanity
I am listening to my body
I feel connected to my Divine nature
I feel God’s presence
My true nature is loving

Now to explain the difference between the intention that we use in yoga and a Sankalpa that is used in Yoga Nidra or deep meditation. An intention during yoga is something you focus on when you are awake and alert during your practice. The primary benefit is that it keeps your mind from wandering so much. During Yoga Nidra, a Sankalpa is repeated three times at the beginning and the end of the practice. In this case, you are operating in a state between waking and asleep where your subconscious is active and you have access to memories from recent all the way into distant past. In this space, you have more power to transform destructive thinking patterns to ways of thinking and living that better serve your emotional and physical well-being.

Many people have been able to let go of destructive habits – such as overeating, alcohol and drug abuse, as well as uncomfortable mental states – such as depression, anxiety, and insomnia – through meditation practices. f you want to begin reaping the benefits of Yoga Nidra, you can dowload the Insight Timer app on your smartphone. There are many free Yoga Nidra scripts you can listen to for free. Establish a resolve you can work with until it feels like it is well-established in your life. At that stage, you can progress to another one.

 

Jan 052020

Many people start a new year, making a resolution to exercise more. And that’s a very smart decision because regular exercise can do a lot to improve your health and mental outlook. What works for me and for many is to choose enjoyable activities. If it’s fun, you’re more like to keep doing it, right?

My passion is for the water and so most days, I can’t wait to get in the water! I walk down to the Sea of Cortez and savor my swimming experience for an hour, sometimes longer. Whether in the pool or the sea or ocean, I love the feel of the water rushing by me, the feel of propelling myself through the water. I like the solitude, the silence, the escape that I experience, which helps me clear my head of clutter and distress.

I love the multisensory experience sea swimming – smelling and tasting the salt, spotting sardines, sea bass, and stingrays – and on the most amazing days, encountering my dolphin friends. There’s a pod of 11 or more bottle-nose dolphins who often propel themselves underneath me with their powerful flukes or glid around me, sometimes in circles. Occasionally, a dolphin friend will come up nose to nose and nod or even make sounds for me. Clicks, chirps, and other calls.

The photo here is of me finishing an 1800-meter swim this past September in Miramar, near Guaymas, Mexico. Click here to see a short YouTube video clip of me wetsuit swimming. Water temperatures vary from the mid-50s F up to the low-90s, depending on the season, so I rang in the New Year wetsuit swimming since the water is quite chilly in the winter, even south of the border in San Carlos, Mexico.

Finding enjoyable exercise is one of many helpful recommendations I offer in my Fitter Than Ever at 40 and Beyond book. Stop making resolutions and quitting them two weeks later and embark on a journey of healthy living. Let 2020 be the year you succeed! If you haven’t read Fitter Than Ever yet, click here to pick up a paperback or here for the Kindle edition.

May 142019

Now that I live in San Carlos, Mexico most of the time, I swim in the Sea of Cortez almost every morning. My swims keep me fit and allow me to connect with nature and feel relaxed and in balance again. I recently wrote an article for the online edition of Swimmer (Finding New Friends in the Open Water) about my sea swimming and especially the amazing experiences I’ve had swimming with the dolphins.

“When I introduce myself to someone new, I could as easily say “I’m a swimmer” as “I’m Susan.” The water is almost always on my mind. Swimming calms me when I’m anxious, balances me when I feel out of touch with myself, and gives me the strength to cope when I lose loved ones. The water is my sanctuary, the one place I always feel safe.” (continue reading)

Sep 182018

Susan: What led you to become a healthcare professional? Where did you study and earn your degrees?

Angela: My degree is not in medicine. My undergrad is in applied mathematics (UCLA), and I started the doctoral program immediately after that (in mathematics and statistics) but left for family financial reasons and got a quick MBA instead (UCR). I went to work in Silicon Valley. There I got my MS in MS&E (Stanford). After that, I started my doctoral program at the Claremont Graduate University in Neuroeconomics–a program that was just being born, so I was its first official student. My Ph.D. still says “Ph.D. in Economics” but my dissertation was all neuroscience. In my last year of doctoral studies, I also received an fMRI (functional MRI) certification from Harvard University. I started my healthcare education at home from books and academic journal publications. I now hold a certification in LCHF/ketogenic diets and am completing a few more courses in healthcare, so more certificates yet to come. 

What led me to move over to healthcare from neuroeconomics: migraines. I suffered from migraines from a young age. I struggled through my education. Then I married a wonderful man and raised two awesome sons and managed a career, despite my migraines. I have no memory of my sons’ childhood or my work and education at all. I really have no idea how I got all that done with constant migraines. I cannot recall–I remember pulling two chairs together in my office between classes to rest at the university I was teaching. I was working in Germany at the prestigious Max Planck Institute as a visiting scholar and fellow, when one day it just hit me that I had enough. I took the next flight home (family stayed in the US while I was doing research at Max Planck Institute) and I started my migraine research that day. I read thousands of academic articles and just about every single book there is on migraines. 

Susan: How is your approach different from the “Sick care” model of the American healthcare system? What led you to approach things differently than typical paradigms for diet and health?

Angela: “Sick care” is a great expression for keeping and caring for the sick. I prefer “health care,” meaning “maintain and care for health” rather than what the modern formula is, which is “keep everyone sick but without symptoms.” Living in Germany opened my eyes to what it is like for healthy people to live without medicines and going to the doctors all the time. This was also true in Hungary, where I grew up, I don’t recall people being sick, taking supplements and medicines. It just didn’t exist. It shouldn’t exist. The “Sick care” approach doesn’t know (or doesn’t want to) search for the cause. There is no money in finding the cause of a health condition and removing the cause. What does a “Sick care” system do with a lot of healthy people? I don’t want to get into politics, but you can see that there is a ton of politics involved.  From my limited knowledge, I have become curious about the connection of nutrition and health conditions. I also lived in France and am aware of the French Paradox–meaning the French eat a lot of saturated fat but are the healthiest nation. Having lived there, I observed what the French eat. A typical French day: coffee black for breakfast and out to door for work. Lunch is two hours long and starts with rich saucy fatty meat without any side dish, followed by a side dish if desired, a salad if there is still room, and then a plate of several cheeses. No sweets, no soft drinks. Dinner starts late and long–similar to lunch. Most French eat baguettes maybe once or twice a week. It is not a daily food. At least this is how it was when I lived there in the 1970s. It may be different now. The the French Paradox is not much of a paradox to me: they eat no processed foods, no sweets, no soft drinks, and eat lots of protein and animal fat and no fast foods. This helped me see dietary differences between cultures. 

Susan: You have written an excellent book about a dietary and hydration plan for managing migraines? What inspired you to write Fighting the Migraine Epidemic and to start the Facebook groups for migraine sufferers? Please share a bit about both so readers can understand.

Angela: Initially, the 1st edition of the book, was inspired solely by my own experience only and all the research–in terms of reading an experimenting on myself–presented to me. As part of my doctorate, I ran clinical experiments using neurotransmitters on volunteers (at UCLA) and so I am familiar with the shortcomings of experimenting on myself, but I was a migraineur and I was the first to try these methods. So my 1st edition described my findings based on me, which I extrapolated to other migraineurs based on academic literature. However, it was just an extrapolation so I had no idea if what worked for me would equally work for others. Basically I spent several years connecting scientific dots. One journal article would write that migraineurs urine contains more sodium (by 50%) than non-migraineurs; another found that migraineurs have different voltage magnitude and frequency; yet another explained that the migraine brain appears hyper sensitized and overactive. It seemed to me that there was a missing element: and an orchestra cannot play without a conductor. Science in migraine needed a conductor and I was very ready and able to become one. Earning a doctorate in any field helps a student understand what it takes to conduct research and how to connect the dots so the right information can be found. Unfortunately, health science is so specialized, and researchers are not encouraged to communicate in different fields, and so no one made the connections that if migraineurs excreted 50% more sodium in their urine, their bodies must be using more sodium. If they have higher voltage amplitude and more voltage in general, they must be using more of those elements that initiate voltage–and that is sodium. The hyperexcitable and hyperactive brain is just a connecting point that “yes! the migraine brain needs more sodium!”  

Next, I had to explain excitability, why migraineurs have prodromes, why they go through similar symptoms and what causes those. At the writing of the first book, I really only understood the need for more salt. Since that solution worked extremely well most of the time–not always–I felt the urge to share my knowledge. I didn’t yet have all the answers but I wanted to know if other migraineurs would have the same outcome as I did. So as the first book was published–it was a small book–I also started a Facebook migraine group, hoping  people would read the book and  extend my understanding by sharing their experiences. The group had a very slow start, as did the 1st edition of the book. Migraine sufferers have been put through the wringer so many times with expensive treatments that never work for long and have major side effects. Many tests cost a lot of money. Families are in complete disarray because of a suffering parent–or in many cases, there is a child–having migraines all the time and on at least 5 medicines. It was very hard to convince people to try to increase their salt. There is a dogma against increased dietary sodium (sodium is 40% salt but in the US, sodium is what is listed on product labels) stating that it increases blood pressure. However, migraineurs usually have such low blood pressure that an increase actually would have been welcomed! The interesting thing is that no one’s blood pressure has increased at all in the past five years of the Facebook migraine groups’ existence–I opened the second group several years after the first one. We had over 4000 migraine sufferers use what is now called Stanton Migraine protocol(R) without an increase of blood pressure for over five years, and they are all migraine- and medicine-free. 

The 2nd edition of the book was published in September 2017. This new book is a “Complete Guide.” Whereas the 1st edition was a small book of 240 pages, this book is a huge one at almost 700 pages. However, this book contains the entire science behind migraine. It has five parts. Part I is an introduction. Part II is for the migraineur who is in the middle of a migraine and doesn’t know what to do. That section is only about ten pages and gives directions like “if you have this, do this, if you have that do that”, so it is very handy. Part III is the scientific explanation for the migraineur and it is also the part where I explain the Stanton Migraine Protocol(R). It is the longest section and is probably the most interesting. Part IV is for doctors and scientists and part V has citations from 800 academic journals and medical books. The 2nd edition book also includes comments from migraineurs about their experiences. They wanted to help migraine sufferers to understand how the Stanton Migraine Protocol(R) helped them and why. 

Susan: Do you see exercise as an important part of being healthy? Why? What kinds of activities do you do to stay active and healthy? What do you do to keep your life feeling in balance?

Angela: Great question because migraine sufferers often avoid physical activities as a result of their migraines and also because the medicines they take. So the first thing that I wanted to do after I turned migraine-free is to get back into exercise. Unfortunately, I had a bad back injury that prevented me for years from doing anything even after I was already migraine free. In 2017 I took up hiking and jogging, something I really enjoy. Unfortunately, because of my back injuries, I was told by my “surgeon to be” to never run or jog again. The last thing I wanted was a surgery so I looked very hard into what I could do to help my muscles recover–I completely lost all sensitivity in my left leg for several months, I was in a wheelchair. And so there was quite a bit of muscle dystrophy in my legs and lower back. I needed to get my muscles strong again. At the end of December 2017, I tested out for weightlifting in a small private gym with a private trainer. At that time, I could not do a single squat without falling over, could not get up from the floor, I had no balance at all and found even a 2 lb. dumbbell heavy! After that initial workout, I could barely walk out to my car. My legs felt like they were made from sponges. However, this trainer was very well educated in my kind of injuries and today, nine months after starting, I can lift 120 lbs with my hip, dead-lift 110 lb., and can get up from the floor without any hand assistance at all. The change is amazing–I can actually see muscles now! I work out with weights with a private trainer three times a week, one hour each time. I also picked up kickboxing for a bit of cardio that I missed, about five months ago. I have a different private trainer for kickboxing once a week. It is extremely intense, and as I am 65 now, I use a chest strap for heart monitoring and we watch my pulse on my phone. I work out in zones 4 and 5 but stop when my heart reaches my heart’s maximum and wait until it goes back to zone 4 before resuming.

In terms of keeping my life in balance… hmmm… I am not sure I am doing a good job at that. I have never been one to enjoy relaxation much. I think I am a tech junkie and forever student deep in my heart. So for relaxation, I am taking a physiology course now at Coursera offered by Duke and I am also studying Functional Medicine. I am writing a book and several articles. I think the word “relax” doesn’t exist in my life. When I am totally tired and cannot read another word, I listen to books. I am now listening to “Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” which I find fascinating because what I did in my life all through childhood till now is what he did as well, only at a different scale. I completely associate with him and his thinking. I truly enjoy that book. 

Susan: Since I have read your book and am a member of one of your Facebook, I know that you think the typical American diet has many harmful consequences for health. Can you explain why the average American diet is so harmful and how someone wanting to start making a shift can get started?

Angela: Indeed, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is very harmful–actually all Westernized diets are. There are several reasons for this but to make it as simple as possible, our diet is dominated by a food category (carbohydrates), which is nonessential. Let me explain a bit. There are 3 basic macronutrients: proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Essential is something we cannot live without and our body cannot produce on its own and non-essential is something we don’t need as the body can make it as needed. Of these three macronutrients, protein and fat are essential but carbs are not. So why do carbohydrates, a non-essential macronutrient, make up over 50% of nearly everyone’s diet? And by carbs I mean all carbs: grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and sugars (all sweeteners). In other words, we fill our tummies with carbs that we need not eat at all and that puts us at a risk of not eating enough of what we do need, meaning proteins and fats. Carbohydrates have some benefits, such as getting really fast access to energy to, for example, sprint. And how many of us sprint after eating a slice of bread, an apple, a smoothie, a slice of cake or pastry, or a bowl of salad? The consequence of eating so many carbs without burning them off right away is that our body must store what we eat. Carbs contain a lot of water and our body cannot store carbs as carbs. In our body, carbs we didn’t use right away gets stored as fat. This gives rise to all the ill health, including metabolic diseases like chronic insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and obesity. It can all be avoided by avoiding carbs. 

I am not saying that we all must avoid all carbs but it is best to stick to nutrient-dense carbs! I had a conversation with a Facebook friend the other day who said “he will eat an apple for its nutrients” so I looked up the nutrients in an apple and came up empty-handed. A small apple is equal to 4 teaspoons of sugar but has so little vitamins and nutrients, that just to get a daily recommended vitamin C amount, one would have to eat 20 small apples. That’s 80 teaspoons of sugar! So do we really need to eat that apple? Instead, choose to eat one mini pepper and the entire daily vitamin C and other vitamins are included and the amount of sugar in that little pepper is 1/4 teaspoon. Doesn’t that make more sense? People often tell me that they cannot quit carbs because they love the sweet taste. I understand. We all love sweet taste, it is addictive. But lead is also sweet, as is antifreeze. I won’t eat those just because they are sweet! The harm they cause may seem to dwarf that of the apple but only because consuming them would cause more immediate harm. The antifreeze may be fatal in a day and the apple perhaps in 30 years but the outcome is the same. 

We also have a malnutrition epidemic and eat more than ever before. And I don’t mean malnutrition of the poor but malnutrition of all segments of the population. That is because while we stuff our tummies full of carbs, there is little thought given to the essential nutrients, such as protein and fat. And our body is made from protein and fat and not from carbs. So when does our body get the nutrient it needs? If we eat a lot of carbs, it doesn’t, and that leads to illnesses that are completely preventable. This includes type 2 diabetes, Chrohn’s disease, arthritis, PCOS, most asthma types, allergies, hypothyroidism, many cancer types, Alzheimer’s disease, IBS, celiac disease, psoriatic arthritis, GERD, thyroid diseases, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, heart attack, just to name a few. Why are we taking medicines for health conditions that are completely preventable by eating the right food?

SusanI believe there is a lot of health information on the internet intended to mislead sick people – due to an agenda to sell a product or push prescription drugs. Can you speak to this? What can people do to educate themselves (from reliable sources) and to become empowered to help themselves become truly healthy again instead of getting stuck in a constant cycle of illness and misery?

Angela: Indeed, it is very scary how much misinformation is available on the internet. As I have learned recently, even Wikipedia is biased toward supporting foods, for example, that cause serious health conditions. Why? They likely have a financial incentive. Lately, academia is experiencing a war in nutrition! It is ridiculous that the two opposing sides (those wanting to push a diet high in carbs and those wanting to stop the consumption of lots of carbs) have gotten to an all-out-war where academicians publish complete junk just to kick the other side below the belt. I feel very sad for the consumer because it is very hard to make sense now about what they read on the internet. There are simply no trustworthy sources to turn to. Every single government agency appears to be tied to some financial interest and that seems to lead us toward the big processed food companies, and pharmaceuticals, whose interest opposes that of human health. The best thing I can recommend is to find a website on a topic of interest. Then ask yourself…Are they trying to sell a product? Close that page and look for another one. If it is a scientific academic article, scroll to the bottom and read who funded the research. If you are not familiar with the name of the company, Google it and see if it is associated with food manufacturing, farming, or pharmaceutical companies. If yes, look for a different source! Before you invest in a book, Google the author and see what they sell! If it is just the book, it is fine but if they sell supplements or anything else, it is unlikely to be reliable. Unfortunately, doctors learn “old science” and so most of them are not updated and will lead all their patients down the old dogma-beaten path. If your doctor starts saying salt increases blood pressure, or fat causes heart disease, or that your cholesterol is high, its time to look for another doctor. 

Susan: Thank you, Angela for taking the time to speak with me. I really appreciate it.

Angela A. Stanton, Ph.D.

Scientist, Stanton Migraine Protocol

Email: angela@migraine-book.com

Website: http://stantonmigraineprotocol.com

Address: P.O. Box 18863 Anaheim, CA 92817

Website: http://migraine-book.com

Testimonials: https://stantonmigraineprotocol.com/testimonials/

Scienceblogger: https://www.hormonesmatter.com/author/angela-stanton/

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